Brunsbüttel locks

Construction of a fifth lock chamber and complete refurbishment; as well as upgrade of the existing lock infrastructure in Brunsbüttel.

In theory, a total of four lock chambers are available for ships entering or leaving Kiel Canal at its western end in Brunsbüttel. Particularly the ‘Big Lock’ chambers – suitable for all sizes of ships able to transit Kiel Canal – form a critical part of the infrastructure. After a century of continued use these two lock chambers, which were completed in 1914, show considerable wear and tear affecting the availability of Kiel Canal and the reliability of transit durations. Delays caused by the ageing lock infrastructure cannot be anticipated and respectively planned by the canal’s customers. Delayed and unreliable transits affect the economic attractiveness not only of Kiel Canal, but also of the German ports, in particular of Hamburg.

After a century of use both chambers of Brunsbüttel’s ‘Big Lock’ are in need of a complete refurbishment. All parts of the construction – concrete elements as much as steel segments – need to be renovated. In order to ensure maximum safety of operation and traffic, also the lock’s engine components and the electrical engineering need a thorough upgrade. Renovation of the two lock chambers itself will comprise extensive work on the heads, the circulation canals, the bulkhead walls of the two locks as well as on the engines, tracks and creepers of the gates.

A precondition for the upgrade of Brunsbüttel’s aging existing lock infrastructure is the preceding construction of an entirely new, 5th lock chamber. It will handle the Canal traffic while the ‘Big Lock’ chambers are out of operation for refurbishment for a period of approximately two years. Small vessels and pleasure boats will be able to use the ‘Small Locks’.

Building permission for Brunsbüttel’s fifth lock chamber has been granted already in 2010. A year later funds amounting to 300 million euros for the period until 2016 were grated.  A symbolic ‘Delve of Spade’ took place in April 2012 upon a visit of Germany’s Transport Minister at the time, Dr Peter Ramsauer, to Brunsbüttel. Subsequently some preparatory work (construction of an inverted siphon and an extension of mole 2 to create a new approach from river Elbe) was started. Tender documents for the project were reconsidered and checked in early 2013; subsequently potential bidders were invited to submit tenders in April 2013. Contracts will be assigned in 2014. Construction of just the new, fifth lock chamber is estimated to take seven years.


…a rapid construction of the fifth lock chamber prior to the renovation/upgrade of the existing two chambers of the ‘Big Lock’ in order to maintain the availability and service capability of Kiel Canal at all times. The upgrade of the existing chambers should start as soon as the fifth chamber has become operational.